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Saudi Arabia Removes Cattle Age Limit for U.S. Beef, Extends Chilled Shelf Life

Effective May 13, 2020, Saudi Arabia no longer requires that U.S. beef and beef products be derived from cattle less than 30 months of age.

In 2021, the Saudi Food and Drug Authority approved a regulation increasing the shelf life for chilled beef sold in Saudi Arabia by 50 days, with the new standard being 120 days from the date of slaughter. This is a significant development for U.S. exporters serving Saudi Arabia, as the former, 70-day shelf life limit had been a source of frustration for exporters and their customers for several years. It was inadequate for any chilled beef shipped by ocean freight, because it didn’t allow enough time for the product to make it through commercial channels to the end user, meaning that chilled beef had to be shipped by air at a significantly higher cost.

Although removal of the cattle age limit and longer chilled shelf life are steps in the right direction, USMEF continues to work with U.S. trade officials on other market access obstacles in Saudi Arabia. U.S. beef exports achieved steady growth in this market prior to a 2012 suspension of trade following a BSE case in California. The market reopened to U.S. beef in 2016, but under substantially stricter access terms, including halal-related cattle feeding restrictions that added significant verification and documentation costs for U.S. producers and exporters. Feed restrictions and traceability requirements continue to limit exporters’ ability to serve the Saudi market, and must be addressed in order to get back to the levels of trade achieved prior to 2012.